Dec 1, 2011; Seattle, WA, USA; NBA former player Bill Russell watches the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

My Top 25 NBA Players Of All-Time


During the offseason, we thought we’d stir up some controversy with lists of our Top 25 NBA players of All-Time. So here is my installment.

#25 – Ray Allen

Kicking off my top 25, Ray Allen comes in as one of the purest shooters the NBA has ever seen. Allen is the All-Time leader in 3 point field goals made, which he currently has 2,718. In the 2010 NBA Finals, Ray set a record hitting 8 3 point shots in a game.

Allen finds himself at 25 mainly because of his great shooting. The only knock on Ray, is that unlike Reggie Miller, he is unable to create his own shots and has to rely on the point guard to set him up. Still, Ray is the greatest shooter of All-Time.

#24 – John Stockton

The point guard for the Utah Jazz, who met the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals twice in the 90′s comes in at 24. Stockton is the All-Time leader in assists with 15,806, but when you play with Karl Malone your whole career, your assists stats may be that high too.

Stockton was also a very accurate shooter with 51% from the field. Stockton was unable to win a championship thanks to the Chicago Bulls, but he still is one of the greatest point guards to ever play in the NBA.

#23 – Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas, an underrated point guard who played in the 80′s to early 90′s comes in at 23. Thomas is probably the most overlooked point guard, he was extremely talented player who averaged a double-double for 4 straight seasons.

Thomas won 2 championships with the Detroit Pistons. He leads the Pistons in scoring, assist, games played, and steals. He ranks 5th all-time in assists.

#22 – Reggie Miller

One of the best scorers in the 90′s and in the league, gets placed at number 22. Reggie Miller, the greatest 3 point shooter, now second to Ray Allen, was probably one of the best clutch performers in the NBA. If you needed a 3 point shot, he’d most likely make it. When you needed a bunch of points in a hurry, he was able to supply them.

Reggie Miller was never able to get a ring like so many others. He played when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dominated the league, and later in his career, he made it to the Finals with the Pacers, but fell short.

#21 – Karl Malone

Undoubtably one of the top 5 players to play in the 90′s finds himself at number 21. Karl Malone, like many great players in the NBA, never won a championship, but his stats were impressive enough to make him one of the leagues best.

Malone averaged a double-double for 10 seasons in his career. He scored 36,928 points and grabbed 14,968 rebounds. He dominated his position in the time he played, and posted some great numbers.

#20 – Kevin McHale

Kevin McHale, one of the original Big 3 for the Boston Celtics, rounds out the top 20. McHale who is somewhat an underrated big man, was one of the best inside threats in the 1980′s. He had exceptional post moves in the paint, could knock down jump shots, and rebounded efficiently. He almost averaged a double-double 6 times throughout his career, and he averaged over 20 points for 5 seasons.

Being a teammate of Bird, McHale kind of gets lost behind his shadow, but without him, there is no way the Celtics win 3 championships in the 80′s.

#19 – George “Iceman” Gervin

Probably one of the most underrated players in NBA history, George Gervin, comes in at 19. Due to playing in the ABA and for the San Antonio Spurs in the 70′s to mid 80′s, his talents were never seen like they could have been today. Gervin was the Durant of his day, his length helped him dominate the small forward position.

In his career, he scored 26,595 points and grabbed 5,602 rebounds. Gervin was never able to win a ring, but being one of the toughest opponents and greatest scorers in the game, he has found himself at number 19 on my list.

#18 – Dominique Wilkins

One of the best scoring threats in the 1980′s checks in at number 18. Wilkins was a guy who could put points up quickly. I almost liken him to a Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant of his day. In 1988, Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins dueled off, showcasing one of the greatest back and forth 1 on 1 performances in NBA history. Wilkins finished with 47 points in a Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics.

Unfortunately, Wilkins was never able to win a championship, and stands as one of the greatest scorers to not win one.

#17 – LeBron James

The best player in the league as of 2012 finds himself at number 17. Being compared to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, LeBron doesn’t really get the credit he deserves. He is an amazing athlete, one who can play any position from point guard to power forward. In 9 seasons he’s already scored over 19,000 points, grabbed nearly 5,000 rebounds, and has dished out close to 5,000 assists.

For me, I have him at 17 because he could never lead his team by himself. He left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat where he had to join a team who already had a leader with a ring. He’s an amazing player, but all the greats and legends in the NBA, never left their respective teams to join up and create a super team.

#16 – Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan, one of the greatest power forwards in the game today, comes in at 16. In his prime, he was another guy that you just couldn’t stop. He had post moves, could make the outside shot, rebounded, blocked shots, and played great defense overall.

Duncan led the Spurs to 3 championships, after being a part of the 1999 championship team when David Robinson was the leader. Duncan is a great player, and arguably could have gone higher, but the player at number 15, is very special to the NBA.

#15 – Kevin Garnett

At number 15, Kevin Garnett comes as one of the most unique players in NBA history. No matter what team you put him on, he becomes the heart and soul of that franchise. He sacrifices to make the team better, and even if he had to move over to a position that he absolutely hates.

KG’s intensity can not me matched, he’s probably one of the most talented players in the modern era. In his career he has scored 24,270 points and has grabbed 13,313 rebounds. He also has a championship ring to add on to his legacy.

#14-  John “Hondo” Havlicek

John Havlicek makes it to number 14 as one of the most top conditioned athletes to ever play the game. His tireless work ethic on both sides of the court helped him to become one of the greatest players in Celtics history.

In his career he scored 26,395 points while he was in Boston, which is still a franchise record. Havlicek is somewhat forgotten because of other Celtics greats like Larry Bird, Bill Russell, and a number of other players.

#13 – Jerry West

Jerry West, the player who the NBA logo is based off of, finds himself at number 13. West was probably one of the first real shooting guards of his day. Known as Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, West could shoot from anywhere on the court.

In his career he scored 25,192 points, and with his outside range he probably would have had more points if the 3 point line existed. Adding to his legendary career he won 1 title in 1972 with the Lakers.

#12 – Bob Cousy

Mr. Hardwood Houdini himself makes it at number 12 on my list. Bob Cousy was a talented point guard, not very athletic, but had tons of tricks up his sleeves, which is probably how he got his nickname. Cousy came to Boston at the beginning of the dynasty in the making, and when Bill Russell came, those two were the Rondo and KG of their day.

Cousy dished out 6,955 assists, but that was in an era when they didn’t count assists after the player who received the ball dribbled with it. Cousy could very well have had many more assists, but we’ll never know. During his time in Boston, Cousy won 6 rings. Personally, I believe he was one of the greatest point guards of all time, and his stats proved it.

#11 – Julius “Dr. J” Erving 

Coming in at number 11, is Julius Erving. Erving was one of the most talented and athletic players of his time. Erving helped make the ABA a legitimate league back in the early to mid 70′s. Erving had his share of changing the way basketball was played. With his ability to jump, he was one of the first players to introduce the slam dunk.

Besides being known for his dunks and spectacular athleticism, Erving was also a great scorer. In his career he had 30,026 points. He led the 76ers to a championship in 1983, and won 4 MVP’s in his career.

Without Dr. J, Michael Jordan probably wouldn’t have become the slam dunk specialist we all knew him to be.

#10 – Elgin Baylor

Elgin Baylor, the first real athletic player in the NBA, rounds out the top 10. Baylor was an amazing scorer who used his athleticism to score and was one of the first great jump shooters in the NBA. Surprisingly for a 6’5″ small forward, Baylor was a great rebounder. Throughout his career he grabbed 11,463 rebounds, and for someone at that height thats extremely impressive.

Baylor led the Lakers to the Finals 8 times, and was denied the chance of winning a title each time. He set an NBA record, scoring 61 points in the NBA Finals in 1962. Baylor was an overall great scorer, its too bad knee injuries hampered him later in his career.

#9 – Oscar Robertson

Oscar Robertson, the most underrated and unheralded NBA legend finds himself at number 9. Robertson was one of the greatest scorers the game has ever seen. 6 times he averaged over 30 points a season, but it was the smaller things that he did that made him even greater.

As a Celtics fan, I’m accustomed to seeing Rajon Rondo get a double-double a night, but Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double throughout the entire season of 1961-1962. His stats are just absolutely astonishing, and from what I’ve heard from old timers, Oscar Robertson probably could have played in any era.

#8 – Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq comes in at number 8 as one of the greatest big men of his era. His sheer size made it impossible to defend him, and to add on to his defenders headache, he could score and grab rebounds, 13,099 to be exact. He won 4 rings in his career, 3 with the Lakers and 1 with the Miami Heat.

Shaq was the first player of his size to actually use it to his advantage. Most of the time, when players with his weight and height came into the league, they usually ended in a bust. As a Celtics fan, it was too bad we weren’t able to see the dominant Shaq we all used to fear playing when the Lakers played the Celtics.

#7 – Kobe Bryant

The first player to make my list who is still currently playing is Kobe Bryant. Kobe is the greatest player since Michael Jordan, and has 5 rings to prove it. Kobe is another player with all heart, and if you’re not careful will rip yours out and show it to you. Kobe’s ability to just take over games is unbelievable, and even though he has declined a bit, he still remains a top player in the league.

In 2010, Kobe willed the Lakers to overcome the Boston Celtics in the Finals. As much as it hurt to watch, his performances throughout that series were Hall of Fame worthy. I’m still afraid of what he can do, even at the age of 33. When his career is all said and done, he may go higher on the top 25 chart, but for now he stays at number 7.

#6 – Ervin “Magic” Johnson

Magic Johnson is one of the greatest point guards to play in the NBA. What Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams do on a nightly basis came from Magic Johnson. Johnson was one of the first point guard to have a scoring reputation. Before him, point guards were known for assisting and bringing the ball up the court, but Magic changed that.

Magic one 5 rings, all with the Lakers. If he could have played longer, I wonder how much higher he would be on everyone’s lists?

#5 – Larry Bird

Coming in at number 5 is Larry Bird. What can I say, this guy was a jack of all trades and master of all of them. Bird could score, pass, rebound, hustle for every play, and did everything it took to win. During his entire career in Boston, he had great moments that are still talked about like they happened yesterday.

Bird led the Celtics to 3 championships in the 80′s: 1981, 1984, and 1986. The thing that stand outs to me was his will to win. He did everything that was necessary for his team to win. I would have loved to put him higher on the list, but Bird will round out the top 5.

#4 – Wilt Chamberlain

One of, if not the greatest scorer in the NBA comes in at number 4. Wilt Chamberlain was famous for his 100 point performance on March 2, 1962 against the New York Knicks, and amazingly, it was never captured on film. In an era where there was no 3 point line, Chamberlain’s ability to score at will is still something that I can’t wrap my mind around.

Chamberlain scored 31,419 points throughout his career, and again, he did that without a 3 point line. He won 2 championships, one with the Philadelphia 76ers and the other with the Los Angeles Lakers. Wilt Chamberlain was the Michael Jordan of his era and he probably could play in the league today. On my list, he is at number 4.

#3 – Kareem Abdul Jabbar

To round out the top 3, is one of the greatest centers to play the game. Kareem was known for his renowned sky hook shot, that was quite frankly unstoppable. He won 6 rings in his career, 1 with the Milwaukee Bucks, and 5 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kareem scored 38,387 points, recorded 3,189 blocks, and grabbed 17,440 rebounds. Kareem was great in his prime, his size along with his skills when he was in the paint were an unbeatable force. For this, he stands at number 3 on my list.

#2 – Michael Jordan

This was difficult for me, but Michael Jordan sits at number 2. MJ won 6 rings with the Chicago Bulls, scoring 32,292 points, dished out 5,633 assists, and had 6,672 rebounds in his entire career. Jordan is still the leader in points per game, scoring 33.4.

MJ revolutionized the game, he made the impossible possible, and the game as we watch it now, is all thanks to him. The reason why I don’t have him at number 1 is because while he did change the sport, he did that all by playing as an individual. He carried his team every year and yes he made his teammates better, but we can look back at his career as a player who was more individually minded than team oriented.

#1 – Bill Russell

Finally, number 1 is Bill Russell. An 11 time champion, who was part of the Celtics run of 11 championships in 13 seasons. In his career, Russell scored 14,522 points and grabbed 21,620 rebounds. Unfortunately, back in the 50′s and 60′s, the NBA didn’t record blocks, so we’ll never know where he ranked in the blocks category.

The argument can be made for Michael Jordan to be at number 1, but Bill Russell embodied everything that an NBA player should be. He was a great teammate, leader, had a desire to win, he put his team ahead of himself, and still to this day, he has been the greatest player to put on a Celtics uniform.








 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: Bill Russell Michael Jordan NBA All-Time 25 Players NBA Top 25

  • AJ

    Can’t leave out Hakeem the dream Olajuwon

  • Adam V

    Hey Mike,

    First off, great article. I always enjoy getting a glimpse into your perspective on anything basketball-related. While I somewhat agree with your ranking of LeBron, I can’t accept your rationale. I hear this rationale far too often and quite honestly, I think it’s illegitimate and tremendously unfair. Just like you and me, LeBron has the autonomy to make his own decisions regarding his future. While LeBron certainly could have chosen a more difficult path towards accruing a championship ring, why would he? LeBron demonstrated through his decision that he believes, above all, that winning is the most important component of his legacy. Number 4 on your list, joined up with Hall-of-Famers Jerry West (#13 on your list) and Elgin Baylor (#10 on your list) in L.A. where he won a championship ring. I don’t see D-Wade or Bosh anywhere on this list. Albeit he was traded to L.A., he was also the MVP the preceding year and it would have been a similar situation for LeBron if he were to have re-signed with the Cavaliers and pursued a trade. If you want to talk about “super teams,” I could name plenty of teams that were significantly more dominant than the Miami Heat are today.This upcoming season, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dwight Howard forces the Magic into sending him to a squad to join a couple of all-stars. I could go on and on about this topic, but I regress. LeBron has won a ring. His strategy worked. Can we really blame him for wanting to win? Sure, he could have put himself in a more difficult situation at the expense of decreasing the probability of winning. What would be the point of that (from LeBron’s perspective)? Sorry for the rant, Mike. I really liked the article, but please, give LeBron a break. If I were to validate LeBron’s position at #17, I would say that his career is far from over, but that if he were to have a career-ending injury tomorrow, this is where he would end up.

    Moses Malone???
    Hakeem the Dream???

    Again, I love the article Mike. Great perspective. Sorry for the rant, but the criticisms regarding LeBron’s decisions need to end (unless you are from Cleveland).

  • dan w

    Waaaaaay too skewed toward the Celtics…seriously, Bill Russell #1???

  • Daniel Lisica

    im sorry but this is awful. russell #1? garnett ahead of duncan? ray allen n miller? no sir charles, david robinson, or hakeem the dream????
    25) elgin baylor24) bob cousy23) dwayne wade22) george mikan21) dirk nowitzki20) dr. J19) kevin garnett18) david robinson17) bob pettit16) charles barkley
    15) kobe bryant
    14) jerry west
    13) lebron james
    12) moses malone
    11) karl malone
    10) tim duncan
    9) shaq
    8) oscar robertson
    7) hakeem olajuwon
    6) bill russell (all b/c some1 has 11 rings doesnt make him the best, winning a ring is a team effort not 1 guy, robert horry has 7 rings. that make him better then jordan?)
    5) larry bird
    4) magic johnson
    3) wilt chamberlain
    2) kareem
    1) michael jordan

  • Steve

    No Moses. No Hakeem. Duncan at #16. Russell at #1. This list made my night. Thanks.

  • Joe Peterson

    “he (Lebron) could never lead his team by himself”
    A. Did you watch the last NBA finals?
    B. How many of the stars listed won their titles without good talent around them (ie. Talent better than what the Cavs offered Lebron)…..

    Lets look at your list and see the pairings (The groupings of players below is not necessarily representative of their entire careers.There are also a number of pairings I am not pointing out)

    #25 – Ray Allen #15 – Kevin Garnett,
    #1 – Bill Russell-#14- John “Hondo” Havlicek-#12 – Bob Cousy , .
    .#5 – Larry Bird- #20 – Kevin McHale,
    #3 – Kareem Abdul Jabbar-#6 – Ervin “Magic” Johnson,
    #7 – Kobe Bryant- #8 – Shaquille O’Neal
    #10 – Elgin Baylor-#13 – Jerry West-#4 – Wilt Chamberlain
    Pippen should be on your list so I include
    #2 – Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen,

    If we look at this evidence one can see many of your top 25 had other top 25 talent to get it done (not to mention many excellent players not on the list who played along side them) . There are also a number of other players here that never won a championship even the pair #24 – John Stockton- #21 – Karl Malone.

    Bottom line: Lets put aside the decision and all the outside distractions and look at what Lebron has done on the court. This year he emerged as a leader, enlarged his game, and did not disappear in the finals. I hope Lebron gets three-four more titles then you all will have to deal with his court play and not the decision etc…

    • Joe Peterson

      The groupings of players below are

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